Who is Lil Miquela, the Virtual-Reality Instagram Star?

Unlike many other kids my age, I never grew up as an ‘Internet child’. Despite the fact that seemingly all Millennials are addicted to social media, my parents’ resistance to technology meant that I never developed the same attachment to my phone as many of my friends did. My early detachment from the Internet has led me to be unimpressed by most social media sites, except one of course – Instagram. Although I am aware of the sheer falsehood of it all, the near perfect lives that many of today’s Instagram influencers tout often leaves me mesmerized by their every move. Then one day I stumbled on a new influencer who is quickly taking the platform by storm, but what differentiates her from all the other airbrushed Instagram models I already follow is that this influencer actually is fake.

Lil Miquela, otherwise known as Miquela Sousa, is a Brazilian-American computer generated Instagram model and music artist who has garnered 572,000 followers in as little as two years. But what is so intriguing about Lil Miquela is not just that she is animated, it’s more that despite her clearly being a virtual creation, her social media accounts portray her as if she is a real, flesh and blood human. Lil Miquela is constantly posting photos with other real influencers, showing off real parties or events she attended, and promoting real fashion brands. She even produces her own music, was recently featured in a full page spread in Paper Magazine, and was just named a #McGrathMuse by Pat McGrath herself. With so many people buying into Lil Miquela’s fame it’s hard not to wonder who’s the mastermind behind the up-and-coming pop sensation, and what their true intention behind Miquela is.

There is already a plethora of rumors circulating the internet about who Lil Miquela is and who runs her platform. Some claim it is the artist Arti Poppenberg, others say it is graphic artist Nicole Ruggiero, and some even suspect it’s just some creepy fifty-year-old man in his basement. With so many theories about who Lil Miquela really is, and with her denying all of them, my question is: why does it even matter? Lil Miquela frequently uses her platform to support socially minded causes including Black Lives Matter, transgender rights, feminism, Muslim and refugee advocacy organizations, and many more. She openly shares details of her personal life, regularly interacts with her fans, and promotes a positive self image. Unlike many of the other Instagram celebrities who are merely in it for the financial incentive, Lil Miquela is genuinely committed to inspiring and empowering her fans to do and feel good. So even though Lil Miquela is computer generated, she still comes off as more authentic than many of the real social media influencers crowding the internet. Why do we need to uncover the mystery behind her identity? Like Lil Miquela herself said in an interview with Shane Dawson, “people’s interpretations of me say way more about them”. Sounds like whoever Miquela is, she knows what she’s about.

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